Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Konta in tough two sets win

Day Two of the 2017 Aus Open and the temperature is rising - hopefully the tennis is as hot.  Margaret Court Arena has Johanna Konta, a player displaying some of the hottest form on either tour, fresh from her second WTA victory - the Apia International in Sydney last week.

Konta, the ninth seed from England, plays Kirsten Flipkens.  The Belgian is ranked 70, but was as high as 13 in 2013, and won the last encounter with Konta in Monterrey in 2016.
However, 2016 was a breakthrough year for Konta, including a semi final at this very major, where she lost to eventual winner Angie Kerber.
Johanna will have too many weapons for Kirsten to have to defend today.

Konta won the toss and sent Flipkens in to bat.

Kirsten started with a double fault, more than compensated with four wayward forehands from Johanna, who continued to be inconsistent off the ground, but when she landed her first serve, and did find her range off both wings, the  Belgian had little chance.
Still Flipkens held serve again, even throwing in an ace and a nifty lob to test the ninth seed. 2-1 and on serve.
Konta swiftly levelled with a much more competent display from the line.

It was soon 3-3 and although the serves were easily held, some of the baseline exchanges were the best of the match to this point.  
Then lightning struck.  Konta sent a punishing return by a Flipkens serve and sent her on a path to three break points.
The third one was converted when Flipkens failed to clear the net and Konta now had control 4-3 with serve to come.

At 3-5 and 0-30, a frustrated Flipkens, who was missing by small margins, was in danger of dropping another serve and the set, but she recovered with some gritty shot making to be 4-5 and force Konta to serve out the set.

In trying to force the issue, Konta pushed a couple long.  A backhand down the line and a stop volley put things back in an even keel but a double fault upset the balance.  The game travelled through many deuces, with chances going begging for both players, but finally it was Flipkens who grabbed the break and once again it was tied, now 5-5.

Kirsten gave back the break immediately, pushing the easiest volley wide on break point and providing a second opportunity for Konta to serve for the set.
No mistakes this time, as the serving was spot on, leaving Flipkens in defensive mode and unable to answer what was dished up.
7-5 Konta and half way to the second round.

Set two and Konta raced to three break points on the Flipkens serve but could not convert any of them.  Easy to see how Kirsten managed to win in Monterrey - she has a game that matches up well against the power of Konta.
Johanna held serve but it was no picnic and games were 1-1.

Out of nothing, Flipkens hit a brace of loose groundstrokes, inviting Konta in for the kill, and she obliged with the necessary winner to set up the break and lead 3-2.   Konta struggled but consolidated the break as the heat was telling on both players, limiting their capacity to run and reach as many balls as earlier.

Kirsten dropped serve once more, and Johanna realised the finish line was near.

At 0-30 Konta flicked the switch and served well to win the final four points, the set and the match 7-5 6-2.
A days break will be of great relief as she prepares for her second round match.

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